Mobile app

Mobile vs Web App: Which One Should You Choose?


WDF agency

24 Jan, 2023
There is a common misconception that mobile apps and web apps are the same things. Although it sometimes feels like these two are the same, it’s important not to get the two confused — not only are there large disparities for the user, but also in how they are also developed and deployed. All in all, there are quite a lot of differences between a mobile app and a web app.

Understanding their differences is key to building a successful digital product. Both web apps and mobile apps address different business needs. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between mobile and web applications and gain insights that will inform your decision to develop one type of app over the other. Deciding what to develop first should depend on what you want to achieve. Let’s take a look at the differences between a mobile application and a web application.

What are Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are software programs designed for phones and tablets. They can be downloaded from an app store, such as Google Play or the Apple Store, and installed on the user’s device. These apps act in the same way as programmes you install on a computer, providing a way to run that application using your device directly. As you install mobile apps on your system, they don't require internet access to start, though certain features may require internet to function, such as eCommerce shopping or continually updated listings.

Apps are written to run on specific platforms—such as iOS for Apple iPhones and iPads, or Android for phones and tablets running Android operating systems—and have access to system resources such as cameras. This development solution means that mobile apps don't automatically function cross-platform. Mobile developers typically have access to software development kits, tools and system-specific languages to create compatible apps.


  • Faster than web apps
  • Greater functionality - they have access to system resources (such as camera, GPS, etc.)
  • Can work offline
  • Safe and secure - native apps must first be approved by the app store


  • More expensive to build than web apps
  • Compatibility with different platforms (i.e. iOS and Android) usually means designing and building the app from scratch
  • Expensive to maintain and update
  • It may prove difficult to get a native app approved by the app store

What are Web Apps

On the other hand, a web app is a type of application the user can access directly from their chosen browser and are highly adaptive to any device. Since web apps are not native to any system and don’t need to be downloaded or installed, they do indeed look and function a lot like mobile apps – resulting in a lot of confusion among users.

Brands often try to match mobile apps and web apps to be as similar as possible, providing a consistent customer experience. For example, many web apps are reactive to mobile devices, providing a specific layout designed to work with the dimensions of smartphones. As an online application, web apps require a constant connection to the internet or for data to be accessible. These web-based applications update remotely, with no requirement to download updates to the device.

Pros :

  • Do not need to be downloaded or installed - web apps function in-browser
  • Easy to maintain - they have a common codebase regardless of a mobile platform
  • Will update themselves
  • Quicker and easier to build than mobile apps
  • Do not require app store approval, can be launched quickly

Cons :

  • Do not work offline
  • Slower than mobile apps, and less advanced in terms of features
  • May not be as discoverable as mobile apps as they are not listed in a specific database, such as the app store

Other types

Hybrid mobile apps are another choice to consider aside from the mobile app vs web app dilemma. In general, hybrid mobile apps are perfect for reaching wide audiences. They consider elements from both web and mobile, making a perfect alternative for many popular mobile apps.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are also another good alternative. They are slowly gaining recognition as some of the most popular mobile apps. Progressive Web Apps don’t have to go through a store as users can download them directly from their browsers. Additionally, Progressive Web Apps can use many native features of a device. These apps can even be used as Windows phone apps.

Mobile vs Web App: Which One Should You Choose?

The short answer is it depends. Your decision on whether to build a mobile app or web app should depend on your overall goals. Think about what features are most important to you, your company goals, and/or the app’s main function.

When to build a web app

If your app is simply an interactive resource for additional information or only needs internet access to provide a satisfactory user experience (UX), a web app might be the way to go.

When to build a Progressive web app

Progressive web apps are a good fit for companies trying to build better mobile usability than what is currently offered via their mobile site.

When to build a mobile app

If your app will need access to the device’s camera or GPS, you should highly consider making a mobile app. While a hybrid mobile app does allow you to utilize some of these features, it probably won’t be the best experience for your user.

Pokémon Go is a native app, utilizing both the camera and GPS functions of the smart device, combined with augmented reality software.

When to build a hybrid mobile app

While hybrid mobile apps aren’t as common as web or native apps, the list of companies using them might surprise you. In certain circumstances, web apps are converted to hybrid mobile apps in order to have some native-like advantages, including an app marketplace listing.

Twitter is a hybrid app that really has the look and feel of a native app.

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